Why rabbits eat their babies- 5 ways to prevent them

Why rabbits eat their babies- 5 ways to prevent them

Yes, in some situations, female rabbits will eat their own young. Rabbits are known to often cannibalise their young if they are stressed. Ideally they should give birth in a secluded spot with little or no interaction with humans or other potential predators.

Don’t be surprised if a rabbit mother will occasionally eat her young. Although rabbits are not carnivorous by nature, they can take drastic actions in the face of stress or perceived danger.

If you have plans to breed your rabbit, it’s important to plan for your rabbit eating her litter. 

By identifying and correcting the cause of this problem and monitoring for warning signs, you can usually prevent it from occuring.

If a baby bunny is a stillborn or dies after birth for whatever reason, then the mother  bunny will likely eat the dead little bun if left to her own devices.

This is to protect the living babies in her litter. It’s not a fun topic to think about, but dead things stink, and they can attract all sorts of dangerous germs and insects . 

In eating the dead baby, the mom is effectively saving the rest of her litter from the same fate—but at worse hands: that of a hungry predator.

It’s not a pretty fact of life, but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. And even if she’s a domestic bunny, and there are no predators that could get to her, it’s still ingrained into her instinct to do so.

Another, rare case, is if the mother gets severely stressed, she could possibly eat her young, even if they’re still alive.

This you won’t see quite so often—especially (if you’re a breeder or a rabbit owner) if you do your best to keep the mama in a calm, safe environment for her to nurse her kits.

If for some reason a stressor is added, or the mother feels very threatened, then there is a possibility that she could eat the babies—and we certainly don’t want that, so if you’re breeding rabbits or have a pregnant doe for whatever reason, make sure to give her a proper nesting box away from all of the hustle and bustle of the household.

Signs that Your Pregnant female Bunny is (doe) Pregnant and also Stressed

Pregnant rabbits do not always ‘appear’ pregnant, even on the day of kindle(giving birth). Of course, if she’s carrying 15 kits, you might wonder if you should duck and cover – she’ll appear large enough to pop. They frequently lose their waistline in the final few days of pregnancy.

That is why it is beneficial to be aware of these pregnant rabbit clues in order to confirm your suspicions and also helps to you to be on top of things and you can avoid her eating her Kits.

The first sign that a doe is pregnant and stressed  is her mood – she becomes grumpy.

When she sees you approaching, a doe who was once your best friend may abruptly flee to the back of the cage. If you open the door to her cage, she may growl slightly. Does can become grumpy as early as the first few days of pregnancy.

Second Clue: The most reliable way to determine if your rabbit is pregnant is to “palpate” her abdomen, which means feeling for small baby lumps. This can be done as early as day ten or as late as day fourteen.

Third Clue: Some pregnant rabbits begin attempting to ‘dig’ inside their cages as early as two weeks pregnant. You may notice the doe scratching diligently at the cage’s far corners.

If I wasn’t certain I’d palpated her abdomen correctly, I’d be overjoyed to observe this behaviour in the doe. At least in my rabbits, it frequently indicates a positive pregnancy.

However, a doe suffering from a false pregnancy may scratch at the wire in an attempt to burrow.

Fourth Clue: Certain pregnant rabbits become frantic to construct their nest. This pregnant rabbit clue occurs approximately one week prior to her due date (3-4 weeks pregnant).

Fill her cage with hay or straw. If the doe begins to gather hay into her mouth in the manner of a blue jay gathering twigs for a nest, this is a sure sign she is pregnant.

We call the bundle of hay in her mouth a “haystack” because it resembles a hay moustache with a little imagination.

Fifth Clue: Sudden and random jerking of her sides during her last week of pregnancy. That will be little bunny feet kicking around in her womb. Look for quick little kicks, especially when she’s laying on her side. 

You’ll know it when you see it.  And when you see it, you’ve definitely got a pregnant rabbit. 

Don’t confuse the little kicks with the rhythmic rolling movement of the rabbit’s intestines, however. Actually, the two are very easy to tell apart, especially when you’ve seen both.

The pregnant rabbit will always give birth on day 31. However, the bunnies can arrive on any day between day 28 and day 34. If I breed the doe and buck in the evening, the kits should arrive on day 32.

If no babies have been born by day 35, the doe was most likely not pregnant. (“Probably,” because the doe occasionally retains her kits past day 40. 

If you’re still seeing bunny-feet kicks after day 35, consider consulting a veterinarian to determine whether the doe requires additional assistance or simply patience.)

How can we prevent doe eating her young ones?

If you are having an issue with a mother bunny eating her babies when there doesn’t appear to be any reason for her to—definitely look into it. Ask a veterinarian. There could be a deeper, worse issue at hand.

Here are five ways to avoid it happening again.

1. Give her a sense of security

As previously stated, the primary reason that many rabbits, even domesticated ones, eat their young is due to their natural instinct. Given that the response to that instinct is to eat their young, you should address the underlying issue first.

Consider the following: why is that instinct kicking in? Is there anything in her inclosure that poses a threat to her? What can you do to assist her in overcoming her fears?

If this is the primary issue with your rabbit, do everything you can to reassure her that she is safe enough to keep the babies. This includes creating a small hiding place for her and the kits in your rabbit inclosure that is dark and away from high-traffic areas. This may help her feel more secure.

2. Make sure your rabbit mother has plenty of protein in her diet.

As the highest-protein, most nutritionally dense hay, alfalfa is an excellent choice to supplement your mother-to-be’s diet in the weeks prior to birth.

3. Divert her attention with additional food or toys.

Now, if you’ve tried the other two methods and the mother rabbit still appears to be dying to eat her own babies. 

Now is the time to place a greater emphasis on the mother, especially if this is her first child. Give her Chewy toys to reduce her Stress. 

These are some Rabbit toys available on Amazon.

Reduce or eliminate loud noises, bright lights, and rapid movements in the mother’s area during and after the birth. 

By cultivating a calm and quiet atmosphere, you can help keep stress and danger signals to a minimum.

4. Maintain a safe distance between the doe and the kits

If you’ve already done everything possible to reassure her and she still attempts (or succeeds) to eat her newborn kits, it may be best to keep them apart, at least until they’re a few weeks old.

To begin, construct a nest box that is comfortable for the babies, preferably with hay and paper shavings. Here are a few nesting boxes that are currently available on Amazon.

After that, place the nest box in a cage with a closeable door. This is to ensure that the mother cannot access them. You should still allow her to feed the kittens at least once or twice a day, under close supervision.

5. If you have the choice, don’t breed young rabbits.

Any rabbit that isn’t fully mature and mellowed with age will be more likely to react poorly to the stress of birthing.

If, as a breeder, your doe has multiple litters and appears to be eating her live kits in multiple litters, or if her kits are stillborn, it is definitely a good time to retire her, get her spayed, and get her a nice warm home and loving family.

This could be a sign that breeding is stressing her and her poor little body and mind too much.

Monitor Doe and her Kits

Immediately following birth, keep a close eye on them. 

The mother will consume the placenta to replenish vital nutrients and should be closely monitored to avoid accidentally eating one of her young.

If you have taken all of these steps and the mother continues to act aggressively towards her newborns, your final option may be to remove the infants from their mother’s care. If this is necessary, ensure that you follow the steps outlined in the following section.

Final Thoughts

Why do rabbits consume their babies?

Simply because a rabbit ate its young does not automatically make it evil. Occasionally, it’s all a matter of instinct.

You can prevent rabbits from eating their young by making the mother feel more secure or diverting her attention away from her babies. Additionally, you may wish to separate her from her infants while they are still small and vulnerable.


The Rabbits by John Marsden

Manual of Exotic pet Practice

About Content Reviewer & Vet Expert OnBoard: Dr Maya Zamir Malvern Vet Clinic. Dr Maya is passionate about pets and loves sharing her knowledge and research with you.

At Pet Paws Hub, we strive to be the ultimate resource for learning everything about Owning & caring for your pet!

Learn More about Vet Dr Maya

Why rabbits eat their babies- 5 ways to prevent them

For more about Rabbits see our other articles below

Similar Posts